After President Trump announced that the government was working with Google to build a coronavirus screening site that was at the core of the administration testing process, Google quickly corrected this and said that it was actually Verily, Alphabet’s health division, that was working on this and that the site wasn’t ready for a nationwide rollout yet.
Today, Vice President Pence provided a bit more detail, tough he didn’t removes all of the confusion around this. A pilot of this screening site will launch for the Bay Area on Monday, March 16, he said, and direct people to local drive-through testing sites if necessary.
He reiterated that the government is working with Google on this (though my guess is that the VP, just like most people, isn’t all that clear on the complicated company structure that is Alphabet).
“I know Google issued a statement that they are planning to launch a website,” Pence said. “I think they gave a date of Monday, March 16th and we’re working literally around the clock and I know that our whole team is working on the public and private partnership. Couldn’t be more grateful to all at the hard-working people at Google who are helping to put this website together.” He added that the White House will have more to share about this tomorrow, Sunday, at 5pm ET.
Debbie Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, noted that this is not just a simple “checkbox website” but that it actually goes through “critical symptoms and that’s why we’re giving ourselves the weekend to get it put up.”
Separately, the White House also told us that the administration is indeed working with Google to develop this site and most of this lines up with the statement we received from Verily yesterday. Hopefully, we’ll know more details after tomorrow’s briefing.
Update (6:40pm PT):
The official Twitter account of Google’s communications department also posted the following statement tonight. In it, Google says it is “partnering with the U.S. government in developing a nationwide website that includes information about COVID-19 symptoms, risk and testing information.” This is not, however, the screening site that Verily is working on, Google stresses.